Sunday, April 14, 2024
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HomeNewsThe Benefits of Being Welcoming: Guide Dogs in Hotels

The Benefits of Being Welcoming: Guide Dogs in Hotels

In addition to complying with legislation, there are real benefits to welcoming guide dog owners to your hotel or B&B, writes Emma Brown of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Under the Equality Act 2010, guide dog and other assistance dog owners have the right to stay in a hotel or B&B at no extra charge. All hotels and B&Bs should adhere to the Equality Act, from family-owned B&Bs to national hotel chains.

Although most businesses are aware of the legislation and are very accommodating, the charity Guide Dogs still receives complaints from guide dog owners who have been turned away from hotels and B&Bs.

A survey undertaken by Guide Dogs in 2015 found that a shocking three quarters (75%) of all assistance dog owners surveyed have been refused access to a service such as a hotel, B&B, restaurant or taxi at some point because they had an assistance dog with them.

A guide dog allows someone with sight loss to get out and about independently. By turning away an assistance dog owner, you could risk legal action, as well as bad publicity or reviews.

But it’s not all bad.

Like all customers, when a guide dog owner feels welcome in your hotel and B&B, they’re more likely to become a repeat customer and tell their friends and family about you. Maybe even post a great review online.

There are around 530 working guide dogs in Scotland, and they can be clearly identified by their harness with a reflective strip around the front, a reflective section on their lead that states ‘guide dog,’ and an ID tag. It’s worth noting there are approximately 5000 working guide dogs in the UK as a whole, so you may find holidaymakers visiting from further afield.

As well as Guide Dogs, there are seven other assistance dog charities in the UK which are covered by the Equality Act.

The handy website lists the charities, as well as information on the dog’s role and how to identify them. You can also request a window sticker for your business from the ‘contact us’ section, to show you are welcoming assistance dogs.

Most access refusals happen when staff aren’t aware of the Equality Act and guide dogs. Download Guide Dogs’ handy booklet and also find out more about our specialist training.

The leaflet also includes some top tips for helping all customers with sight loss. You could even go the extra mile and inquire about staff training, like the Best Western Kings Manor in Edinburgh.

Manager James Brown said: “We want to ensure all our guests feel welcome and have an enjoyable stay. We felt it was important our staff undertook Guide Dogs’ professional training in guiding blind and partially sighted people, so that guide dog owners and other people in the blind and partially sighted community could feel assured of a warm and confident welcome.

Making the Kings Manor accessible goes beyond practical things like ramps, level surfaces, or a dog run for guide dogs. It’s about having staff who are confident and skilled in welcoming people from all backgrounds and understanding how different guests have different requirements.

And it’s not just about our guests’ experience. Training in sighted guiding for blind and partially sighted people has been good for business. It is a very competitive market at the moment and no hotel can afford to ignore any client base.”

A fantastic, up-to-date leaflet produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission might alleviate any concerns hotel and B&B managers may have around assistance dogs, such as hygiene in food areas, or accommodating staff or guests with allergies to dogs.

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